Development of lakeshores has occurred at unprecedented levels in recent decades. Changes in the shoreland ecosystem concomitant with this development have been little studied. In this study, we compared the structural and floristic characteristics of vegetation at 97 developed and 85 undeveloped (reference) shoreland sites in northern Wisconsin, USA. Quantitative comparisons of vegetation structural characteristics (percent cover of canopy, subcanopy, and understory vegetation layers; percent of shoreline overhung by trees and shrubs; and amount of coarse woody debris) showed significantly greater complexity and cover at undeveloped versus developed sites. We classified plant communities and described plant species composition along three belt transects parallel to shore (upland, shoreline, and shallow water) using ordination techniques to describe the differences between developed and undeveloped sites, as well as among undeveloped sites. The mean number of plant species and the percent of native species were both greater at undeveloped than at developed sites along all three transects. Undeveloped upland sites could be grouped by plant species composition into three types: Northern Wet Forest (bog species), Northern Mesic Forest, and Northern Xeric Forest. Undeveloped shoreline vegetation was also clustered into three categories: bog species, upland species with an abrupt transition to aquatic species, and wet meadow species. Soil characteristics further distinguished the upland and shoreline categories. No distinct vegetation categories emerged in the shallow water ordination. We recommend that appropriate species for shoreland restoration efforts be selected based on the native plant communities present at the undeveloped sites, their relative location along an upland to shallow water gradient, and, in some cases, soil characteristics.
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Vol. 23 • No. 4